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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  September 9, 2010 1:00am-2:00am EDT

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morgan to the cnn family. we, at this program, will continue through the end of december and piers will take over his own show in this time slot starting in early january. we will complete 25 1/2 years in this slot on cnn. welcome aboard, piers morgan. you are a wonderful guy. we look forward to working with you. katie couric, brian williams, diane sawyer are here tomorrow night along with dr. mehmet oz. we'll stand up to cancer. right now "ac 360" and anderson cooper. anderson? >> larry, thanks very much. thanks for joining us, everyone. a very big night, as many of you just saw. for months the nation has been debating the islamic center mosque two blocks from the world trade center site. missing from that debate has been the voice of the imam everyone is talking about, feisal abdul rauf. he broke his silence moments ago on cnn. he said if he had to do it over again, he would have chosen another site. when it comes to moving it, all options are on the table but giving in now, he says, could strengthen radicals on all sides and threaten national security. we'll talk extensively about that tonight. much more with people on all sides of the question.
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first, i want you to hear, in case you missed the whole thing, i want you to hear the most important things that the imam said tonight, some of soledad o'brien's interview, starting with why, for now, he is not moving the center. >> i am extremely concerned about sensitivity, but i also have a responsibility. if we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. the headlines in the muslim world will be that islam is under attack. and i'm more concerned about the radicals in america than i'm concerned about the radicals in the muslim world. >> given what you know now, would you have said, listen, let's not do it there? it sounds like you're saying, in retrospect, wouldn't have done it. >> well, yes. >> you would not have done it? >> if i knew this would happen,
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this would cause this kind of pain, i wouldn't have done it. my life has been devoted to peacemaking, soledad. >> there are so many people who say -- if you're saying it was a mistake, then why can't you get out of it and not do it? >> because we have to now make sure that whatever we do actually results in greater peace, not in greater conflict. so, let's be clear. calling this particular block sacred ground and what exists there, you know, there is -- >> strip clubs and delis. >> right. >> i've been there a million times. when people call it sacred ground, they're saying something terrible happened on this spot. >> we have to be fair. you can't say a place that has strip joints is sacred ground. we've got to be just. we've got to speak the truth. we've got to have justice for everybody. we're a country of justice for all, not justice for non-muslims only, or some groups and not for others. this is what america is all about, soledad.
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we've got to really mean what we say and say what our values are truly about. >> that's some of the new. we'll play more of the interview throughout this hour, as we discussed. i want to bring in soledad o'brien along with fareed zakaria and a new york city construction worker who is encouraging other construction workers not to work on the construction at the islamic center. also bruce feiler, best-selling author of "walking the bible." fareed, llt me start off with you. it does sound like he's saying -- it sounds like there are talks or they are open to the idea of moving this if they can find some sort of, basically, face-saving gesture. did you read that? >> i did read it that way. i think what he was trying to say, what the imam was trying to say, he is trying to be sensitive to the issue of how this will play. and i think it is true, if you read the press around the world,
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not just in the muslim world, by the way, but around the world it is being seen as a test of america's freedom of religion on one hand and, you know, the sensitivity of people who don't want mosques, and it is part of a larger debate about islam in america. >> do you think it is a national security issue now, as he says it is? >> i think it is certainly a possibility that if you have this center crumble under pressure, if you have korans burned in public demonstrations of anger that radicals in places like indonesia, jordan, that the osama bin ladens of the world will use this to manipulate public opinion. they've done it in the past. they've done it with things like the danish cartoons and all kinds of perceived slights. this is being reported all over the world. i do think there is some reality there. the main point, i would say the main message that i got out of that interview was that this man
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is genuinely a moderate and is looking for some middle ground. time and again, he said i don't rule out anything. and i'm looking for a way to ease the pain of people who felt hurt. i've tried to do this because i thought it would be a peacemaking and bridge-building effort. and that really does seem to be what's motivating him. >> andy, you were on the program last night saying you don't believe he's a moderate. did anything he said tonight change your mind? >> he has done more good for my movement tonight than 100 demonstrations have done. >> how so? >> he shot himself in the foot so badly, you'll not be able to chisel the smile off my face. >> how so? >> the whole national security thing. that's a veiled threat. he's saying you make me move and guess what, the whole muslim, radical muslim world is coming after us. that's what i read. and when i was in the green room with rosaleen, we both came to the same conclusion. i actually wrote it down on a piece of paper and i showed it to her.
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>> andy, if i may, for a second, i think what he was saying was not -- the way he said it is we've got to be careful how we resolve this. we've got to be sensitive to the fact that we want this to end up producing peace, not more conflict. that was at least the way in which he was approaching it. and i think, you know, in any of these negotiations it's one of the reasons why most newspapers around the united states did not publish those danish cartoons, because they were not trying to create a situation where you would needlessly cause conflict or violence, including very conservative newspapers that, of course, defended the freedom of expression of that danish cartoonist. >> what's more, actually, just to jump in, and then i'll let you speak here, what he said echoes more or less what general petraeus said the other day. if this thing does get caught up in the larger conversation, as fareed mentioned, of anti-islamic conduct in the
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country, general petraeus also said that runs the risk of helping the recruiting of extremists around the country. >> radicals. >> i would really like to jump in and i would say on 9/11, it didn't take a mosque for extremists to come and attack the world trade center and kill my brother. so, what i'm finding here to be very disturbing is that now we seem to be -- this mosque has to go up or there will be retribution. that's very disturbing, especially to hear imam rauf has come back from the middle east and that he must be hearing chatter or something over there to think that there's a possibility of retribution. that frightens me. imagine when i first heard about this mosque, the first thing that scared me -- and now i'm a layperson. imam rauf should have known this before he started on the path. i was very fearful for the security of new york. when i lost my brother, i couldn't believe, you know, that there were such extremists in the world.
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and now to think that if we don't build this mosque that there's going to be retribution? that really upsets me. what i had so hoped -- >> but to the point that they're saying, that it wasn't unless this mosque is built on this site, there will be retribution. i think -- >> that's what i got out of it. fangets reed is interpreting it, unless there's resolution that -- >> but he kind of said that the muslims around the world are watching what we do here at this very site. >> which seems to be true. do you believe that's true? >> oh, i do, but isn't that really scary, that if we don't build this mosque, as the old expression says, there will be hell to pay? >> he also called us radicals. in a very sublime sort of way. anybody that doesn't agree with this mosque is a radical. and the radicals have taken over the discourse is what he said. >> i would also like to say -- >> he didn't name people who were opposed to this mosque as radicals. he talked about radicals in the united states. >> he said if it was moved, radicals will take over the
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discourse. i'm considered -- i take it as he's considering me a radical. >> but again, if you listen to what he said a couple of times -- i don't have the exact quote -- he said but my real concern is about radicals in the muslim world. this guy has been fighting radicals within islam -- >> i consider that a threat. this is a turf war. >> i don't think you're understanding what i was saying. he is saying my real concern is the radicals of the muslim world and how they will react. >> i'm reading between the lines, fareed. >> no, no, i understand. his concern is much less about radicals in the united states. his concern is, to bruce's point, general petraeus' concern and petraeus is concerned because he sees it on the front lines. we are engaged -- >> bruce, do you think the imam -- to hear the perspectives of our two guests who oppose this, do you think that for the audience across the country, most americans opposed this.
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certainly in new york it's opposed. do you think the imam changed perceptions tonight? >> i think he did a great thing tonight, but i also think he came up short in one key area. i don't think he has changed the fundamentals of the conversation. if you put it in political terms, the way we talk about it, i don't think he changed the debate. i don't think he changed that many minds, and nothing i've seen changed -- i also sit here on the air last night. i said i think this is going to end up with a compromise because i think, in fact, he opened the door, opened it wider and started walking through that door tonight. but what i think is fantastic about what happened is look around us. as i came in the studio tonight, there is news broadcasters out there, police. this is like the super bowl of interfaith relations. for those of us who have participated in this conversation that came out of 9/11, this is truly advancing the ball. we're getting the conversation out. >> i'm sorry. the super bowl? this is not the super bowl. this is pain. and, let me tell you, imam rauf
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said he reached out to family members before this mosque was going to be built. there was no contact with family members. and if he said there was, i would like to see a list. that's a lie. and i would also like to say, my mom and i were so hoping that imam rauf would bring peace to the 9/11 families before this anniversary. i was so sure when he would come back from the middle eastern trip that he would come back and give us a gift of peace and say i wanted this to bring peace, but i see that it's not and i never meant to do this. and to maybe look for another location. >> let me jump in here. i'm looking at this beautiful picture here. >> yes. >> and the peace that you are talking about, what those of us who are working very hard, including feisal abdul rauf to accomplish is to create a situation where there is not open conflict among religions. >> why at ground zero? why does this have to be -- why not bring it over to the middle east? i think that would be a great
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location for the cordoba initiative? they're the people who attacked us at ground zero over in the middle east. why don't they learn to be tolerant? that's a fantastic location, the middle east would be a wonderful place. new york is very tolerant already. new york has synagogues, mosques, catholic churches all coinciding neighborly in peace. this is the first real disturbance in new york since 9/11 and that's really sad to me. i'm so proud of new york. >> this is the voice that we are trying to get out, which is to say that -- >> but why at ground zero? why at ground zero? >> let me just try to answer what i think a lot of us -- >> but you're not answering, why at ground zero? >> the conversation that we're having is what new york is about and what this country is about and what -- and it is about a situation where we have to say there is another voice in this country that is not the extremist. that if the extremists who flew those planes into those buildings are responsible -- >> i agree. it is that voice -- i harbor no
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ill will towards the wonderful muslim people that had no part of 9/11, but i am just saying why at ground zero? we have mosques all over new york, and i'm so proud of them. >> rosaleen, we have to take a quick break. bruce, i want you to be able to respond to that and then we'll take a quick break. >> what we have is there is a community down there that he has and they're trying to find a location. i do not believe and have never believed this is a real estate issue. i believe there is going to be a compromise going to come out of this. >> god willing. >> but all of us who care about what these people died for can stand up and say that what america is about is finding a way for people to co-exist. that is the message we have to deliver. >> we'll take a quick break and continue with our guests again. we'll be discussing this for the whole hour. it's an important conversation. we'll show you more of what imam rauf has said. for better or worse, this is a national conversation. live chat is up and running at coming up, some of the claims
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against imam rauf. we'll put some of the claims of -- some of the stuff that's been out there. what are the facts? we'll keep them honest and look at that. for up to 600 highway miles on a single tank of gas. or the hundred-thousand mile powertrain warranty. over a thousand people a day are switching to chevy. they're not just trading in, they're trading up. qualified lessees can get low mileage lease on this 2011 malibu ls for around one ninety-nine a month. call for details. the switch to chevy starts at we get double miles on every purchase. echo! so we earned a trip to the grand canyon twice as fast. uh-oh. we get double miles every time we use our card. i'll take these. no matter what we're buying. plus the damages. and since double miles add up quick, we can bring the whole gang. it's hard to beat double miles. no, we ride them! [ male announcer ] introducing the venture card from capital one, with double miles on every purchase every day. go to
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we heard from feisal abdul rauf, instead of hearing about him and the center he plans to build. we've heard of people of ill will and bad faith alike. some of the allegations completely outlandish. others completely plausible. we wanted to know what is true about the imam. keeping m honest, checking the facts of his background, tom foreman. >> much has been said about the imam. let's start with a big claim, that he said the united states is to blame for the attacks on 9/11. on "60 minutes" in 2001, he said i wouldn't say that the united states deserved what happened, but the united states' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. we showed this earlier on during larry king's show. in the context of the whole interview, however, the imam is talking about the widely accepted view that american foreign policy has often been unpopular in the muslim world and that has been used by
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fanatics to justify their attacks. furthermore, he says the united states has made some alliances, to support the afghan rebels against the soviets that later backfired, again feeding anti-american sentiment. he also said tonight, you may note, he says he rather regrets those comments and thinks they were insensitive at the time and he understands how many people heard those as saying it was our fault. >> he's tied through this project and his private life to terrorists or just plain criminals. what's the story there? >> new york papers have reported how his partner, sharif el gamel, was reportedly arrested for punching a man involved in a dispute with his brother. el gamel told the daily news, i regret many things that i did in my youth. i have not always led a perfect life. over in new jersey, residents of some apartment buildings owned by the imam say he does not
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maintain the property, allows garbage to build up, rats and roaches. his wife told a new jersey paper essentially they're doing the best they can to take care of these places amid vandalism. in any event, it has nothing to do with this other project. and the imam's late father has been linked to the muslim brotherhood, early islamic radical groups in the middle east. we can find no evidence of this. the imam points out that his father was involved in a fair amount of peaceful work, including heading the islamic center in washington, d.c. >> what about the idea that the imam has been traveling around, secretly soliciting money from foreigners, terrorist groups to pay for this project? >> if he is, it is very secret. he's been on a u.s. state department speaking tour of the middle east and he's done the kind of thing before. working as he said tonight, to bridge the gap between the muslim world and others. and he has repeatedly denounced killings in the name of islam, all killings ghn that name. we found no evidence that he was raising money. >> tom, appreciate it.
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back with soledad o'brien, andy sullivan, rosaleen tallon. soledad, andy interpreted something as basically a threat. i wanted to play what he said about how he feels -- the imam says is a risk to national security. >> there is a certain anger here, no doubt. but if we don't do this right, anger will explode in the muslim world. if this is not handled correctly, this crisis could -- could become much bigger than the danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on danish embassies in various parts of the muslim world. we have a much larger footprint in the muslim world. if we don't handle this crisis correctly, it could become something which could really become very, very, very dangerous. >> soledad, you were sitting across from him. how did you read that when he
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said it? >> he clearly is very concerned about national security and i thought that the point he was making was not a threat that he was putting out, but just sort of saying i spent a lot of time in the middle east and i understand that there are extremist elements there who will interpret this a certain way and that will lead to a threat. the bigger point that i thought he was making was, at one point i thought he was asking me, what do you think we should do? he kept saying what's the answer then? i think that, clearly, what is on the table is to try to find some kind of middle ground that allows for safe facing -- safe -- face saving is what i'm trying to say, anderson, which allows the interpretation to the bigger -- the globe -- to be read a certain way and also that really underscores the issues that i think they are finally realizing about the sensitivity of the site. because i do think that number -- when we talked about extremist elements, those poll numbers, 71%, those are not extremist numbers. those are regular folks who say here is how i feel about it.
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>> absolutely. >> and so i think he agreed with that. i think the concern is about national security. how do you -- he said it was a mistake. i wouldn't have done it if we had known then what we know now. now how do we extract ourselves without setting up a situation where extremist elements that we all know exist in the middle east and certainly other places as well, without bringing something on from this maneuver? it's very nuanced and very, very tricky. i didn't think that he was implying some personal threat anyway. >> david gergen, i want to bring you in. we didn't hear your voice. you have been skeptical about this project a long time saying, yes, legally, constitutionally, they have every right to build. do they need to build it on this spot? it's obviously a sensitive issue. did the imam change your mind on in any way in any direction? >> he struck me as a man of peace, a moderate, a bridge builder. i think he is genuine in that. i did not think he offered a lot of alternatives, nor do i think
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he truly had heard the voices of a rosaleen or andy, who lumped people together about extremists. there are people who are nowhere near extremists, but have genuine feelings, emotions. >> rosaleen and andy don't strike me as extremists. >> and i do think -- fareed and i have not had a chance to talk about this. i do believe there is middle ground and you and i talked about this last night. if you brought everybody to the table, including the families, and brought jewish leaders and christian leaders and the imam and muslim leaders and said how can we build something that truly will be an interfaith center where everyone prays? it's not a muslim center, not a christian center or jewish center but somewhere we can seek understanding? >> the question, is there so much bad blood and so -- that any involvement from this developer, you know, would taint that?
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because it is so ratcheted up now. is that something that -- >> i imagine -- i guess i'm naive, you know. like they're talking about finding a solution to save face. to me, the solution is for imam rauf to say, in memory of all those people and as a gift to new york, we're going to think about our plans, maybe build another location somewhere. like, that would be such a gift and showing strength on his part and on the islamic world, strength to me to be able to say we're going to give you this gift, new york. we didn't realize, as he said -- he said it probably was a mistake. to me, the strongest thing that you can put forth -- >> do you believe that, when he says, to either of you, do you believe that when he says that he didn't know this was going to cause -- that they didn't realize it was going to cause this amount of -- >> they did not realize that at
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all. and i think this whole mosque issue, actually, is transcending what's going on in the nation as a whole. first of all, i think the middle class, period, has been taken completely out of every conversation concerning any kind of giant legislation whatsoever. and i think this mosque issue is the enough is enough point. >> we have to take a quick break. we'll have more with this panel after a short break. ♪ [ male announcer ] your first day. you try to lie low, get the lay of the land. but then calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine goes comparing you to a cadillac. ♪ so much for the new kid fitting in with the rest of the class. the all new chevrolet cruze. starting under $17,000. get used to more. ♪
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back now. fascinating discussion with soledad o'brien, bruce feiler, andy sullivan, rosaleen tallon. also with us, david gergen. when he made the point that this is not ground zero proper, it's blocks away and a street that has strip clubs and porno places and that it's not sacred -- this block is not sacred ground. >> well, i imagine there's so many things you could speak about. the building had -- part of the plane came down into the building and i know human remains were all scattered around there in the days and weeks after 9/11. >> it was never checked. it was never checked. >> yeah. so, in that way, it was ground
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zero. maybe not delineated to the port authority but to all of us who had loved ones missing down there, that was still ground zero. when i go down to ground zero, i look up into a little part of the sky where i knew shawn was in the north tower. i can see that. i can see that from being at the mosque and it's very close to where shawn was in the north tower. >> the existence of strip clubs and stuff, does that upset you? >> no. the strip clubs were not -- that had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11. >> unless the terrorists were strippers, i had no problem with that. >> they hung out in strip clubs, from what i read about some of them, from what i remember about their time in america. >> for the last nine years, everybody from george w. bush to, you know, very conservative scholars like daniel pipes, scholar of islam, hard-core conservative has been saying radical islam is the problem. moderate islam is the solution. we want to find moderate imams, clergymen, muslim leaders who believe in interfaith dialogue and believe in equality of
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sexes, believe in creating centers which are co-ed in which other faiths can pray. here you have the center that was going to be interfaith, that was going to have jews and christians on board, have jewish prayer room, christian prayer room, interfaith dialogue. it's just sad that, you know, this could have been an extraordinary american example of the alternative to extremism, the alternative to radicalism, but it has got mired in an unfortunate emotional debate. and i feel as though if this thing were built and functioning, people would actually, from all sides, would see that the people who are most threatened by this are the bin ladens of the world. they're the ones who don't want centers like this. >> you are shaking your head, david. he made a point that radicals are actually -- need each other and are more opposed to moderates than anyone else. >> well, he did.
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but -- and i would think there would be a lot of people in this country who would resent -- and you voiced this earlier -- resent being lumped together with radicals because you oppose this or you have some real problems with this. >> do you agree, andy, that he was lumping those who oppose the mosque being built with radicalism in the united states? >> i don't think that was his intent, but i think it could have been read into it. are there some radicals in this country? of course. we see fringe elements this past weekend, the pastor down in florida. >> the pastor in florida. >> but when you get 67% to 71% of people in polls that say they have a real problem with this, you have to have some sensitivity to what the american public wants. >> i thought soledad did a tremendous job and after -- >> now you're just trying to butter her up. >> well, she's cute. >> after two months of being away, this is his best shot at coming back and like really pushing his agenda, i think he failed miserably. >> rosaleen?
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>> i would just like to say it's tremendous, but this is what it was all about. it is the sensitivity of what happened there nine years ago. >> soledad, your thought on the interview? >> i think that it's going to be very interesting what happens next. to me, what happened tonight was he opened a door for what's the other way that we can have a win/win? right now they're not in a position of a win that makes the 9/11 families who are opposed to this islamic center feel like their sensitivity issues have been heard, a win that makes people who support the mosque feel like their sensitivities haven't been trampled on either. what is the path? i don't think anybody has this answer at this moment. >> i will second andy's compliment that you did a good job and will reserve the comment on cute because i don't want to offend your husband. i appreciate you being on and bringing the picture of your brother as well. david, stick around. we'll talk with you next. coming up, the national outcry not just about this
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islamic center at ground zero but also other mosques in the united states. we'll also talk with cnn's newest voices, kathleen parker and eliot spitzer. i want to give my 5 employees health insurance,
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we've been talking about the islamic center in lower manhattan. increasingly, outcries over mosques a lot further away from the neighborhood at ground zero, all across the country. here's pat robertson on the "700 club" speaking out on plans to expand a muslim center that already exists in murfreesboro, tennessee. >> you mark my word. they start bringing thousands and thousands of muslims into that rural area, next thing you know, they'll be taking over the city council. then they're going to be having an ordinance that calls for public prayer five times a day. then they're going to be having ordinances that there will have to be facilities for foot washing in all the public restrooms and all the airport facilities, et cetera, et cetera. and before long, they're going to demand, demand, demand, demand and little by little, the citizens of murfreesboro will be
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coward. >> let me show you what happened in murfreesboro since then. the last couple of weeks. saturday the 28th of august, somebody torched construction equipment where the center is going to be built. these are some of the pictures of it. the fbi calls it arson, the culprit unknown. the arson came after a chain of demonstrations across the country in murfreesboro and elsewhere. down here in the lower left, this is the demonstrations, mosque leaders support killing converts. here in the upper left, protesting a mosque in temecula, california. muslims dance with joy on 9/11. gainesville, florida, pastor terry jones still planning to burning korans on 9/11. obviously the protest signs, the arson, check out this poll. this is the latest polling from
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pew research. 25% of people they surveyed, one in four, say local communities should be able to prohibit the construction of mosques if they do not want them. something like the koran burning, if it, in fact, happens, could that spark violence? there's a report that the fbi believes the answer to that question is yes. abc news kwoets an fbi intelligence bulletin that expresses concern that islamic radicals could try to attack the koran burning or retaliate later on. then there's this question -- is islamaphobia creeping into american society? joining me now are eliot spitzer and kathleen parker, pulitzer prize-winning commentator. their program begins this october. >> thanks for having us. >> what did you think of the imam tonight? >> i thought it was good that he came out and spoke and people could see him in person and hear his voice. i think he probably changed very few minds. i think people are going to see exactly what they were already prepared to see. if you were against it you were going to be looking for ways to convince yourself that he was playing some role in trying to
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be this sort of secret jihadist. if you were for it already, then you understand that he is seen as a reasonable, rational person who is well spoken and has something important to say. i doubt that he really changed many hearts and minds but maybe it's a start, as he says, toward a conversation that needs to take place. >> eliot, do you think he changed minds? >> no. you saw in his commentary, which i found persuasive, thoughtful and very well spoken precisely what you believed going in. you saw that on your panel. those who were skeptics heard in his invocation of national security a threat. others who are more sympathetic to him understood that in a context of international affairs. he's saying, look, be careful we don't create additional reasons for those who are radicals to hate us. you can use this as a rorschach test and see it in a way you
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exactly already believe. >> the lines are so clearly drawn? >> the lines are so rigid and the views about this are so deeply engrained and the passion, when you've lost somebody on 9/11, and the pain is so real, it's very hard to change minds. >> are we beyond a place where there is dialogue or possibility of coming together to -- david gergen talked about some sort of solution of having a multi-faith center. >> i think that's a great idea. i don't think we're beyond that but i think we have to be so careful as we give attention to these people who are, essentially, crackpots. >> you're talking not about the people who oppose the mosque? >> no, certainly not. >> the koran burners? >> there is some crackpotism involved in this. the headlines were fairly rational and straightforward in news oriented at a time. you can see that was last december, as he said. if you look at the headlines beginning last may, they get increasingly inflammatory. so, you know, i think that the rhetoric has been highly exaggerated in many cases. the media, we all have a role in that and we have to be so careful. when we do give attention to people like, for example, this fellow in gainesville, threatening to burn the koran, i
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was talking to a friend of mine who lives in gainesville and i said, do you know this character? she said, yeah, my church is about a quarter mile down the road from his. it's a metal building, has 50 followers and i would like for the muslim world to understand that this is just one individual who doesn't represent anyone, but a handful of folks. and that feeds, though, and builds this sort of sense that this is an awful thing going on. >> we need for time to pass. when emotions are this raw, you cannot address the issues rationally. emotion overwhelms rationality. andy said something very interesting and very important. he said this was the last straw for a middle class that is disenfranchised. this issue is one of many that has led to an outbreak of anxiety, anger, venom. in many cases, legitimate because of emotions that derive from 9/11. in other instances, it's a focal
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point for an upset with the way our economy and national politics is playing out. we need to understand this in that context. when you view it that way, you understand how hard it is to bridge this chasm. >> we've seen these incidents, moving away from just this mosque but some opposing any new mosque in the united states or the expansion in murfreesboro, tennessee. those who support it say this is islamaphobia. >> i think that's a big element but this is part of our history and we need to be careful that we appeal to our better -- >> this is just the newest group? catholics to jews? >> newest incarnation. before i came on the show, i dug out george washington's letter to a synagogue in newport, rhode island, in 1790 where he addressed this and said the wonderful thing about the new nation, that's three years old, 220 years ago, he wrote this, is that we are tolerant. and we need our political leadership to speak to tolerance. we need to go back to those values so that everybody can do
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what the imam wants to do and what david gergen spoke to, to get people together and say wait a minute. >> that's not what our political life is about now. >> we keep hearing this, they're going to do this. if you let them give in. >> yes. you let them do this, they're going to demand, demand. who is the "they"? these are americans, too. and it makes me wonder how many people out there watching tonight actually know someone who is a muslim? there seems to be -- i just feem this has become a misunderstanding on a broad scale. while, absolutely, when you talk to people whose families died on 9/11, you can't not take that seriously. i mean, that emotion is real and it's still raw. but i think we've got to stop thinking of muslims as being "them." >> we have to take a quick break. eliot spitzer, kathleen parker, thanks for being with us. quick reminder, parker spitzer premieres monday, october 4th
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tonight we finally heard from imam feisal abdul rauf in an interview with soledad o'brien. he says some tried to use it for political gain. watch.
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>> this controversy only began in may. and it began as a result of some politicians who decided to use this for certain political purposes. and this is when it began to snowball, soledad. >> so, you think it's been politicized? >> absolutely. this is very dangerous and tragic for two reasons. reason number one is that it goes against the fundamental american principle of separation of church and state. this concept of separation of religion and politics or church and state has a wisdom behind it. and the purpose behind it is not to politicize religion, because when you politicize religion, it is dangerous. >> so, is that what's happening? back with us, senior political analyst david gergen. also joining us roland martin, author of "listening to the spirit within" and cliff may,
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president of the foundation for the defense of democracies. david, is this now just a victim of politics? >> i think it certainly has become a political football. there's no question that there were people in the political arena who did want to whip this up and we know many of them were conservatives. they were generally offended and wanted to make an issue of it. i think it's important to say that's not the only thing. "the new york times" on its website, for example, said the controversy broke out after that young man came into manhattan. the muslim guy came in here, was trying to blow some people up. fortunately it was intercepted. that it actually started then. there's more than one reason we have this controversy. >> roland, you describe the opposition to this center as unmistakable bigotry, intolerant and hypocritical. isn't that painting with a very broad brush? we had folks on that didn't seem religiously intolerant. they just opposed the location of this mosque. >> i spoke tonight at howard university's rankin chapel and we talked about the issue of
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faith, intersection of media as well. i told the students at howard, as a christian, i don't want anyone telling me where i cannot build a church. i don't want anyone sitting here trying to say that because i am a christian how i cannot profess my love for jesus christ. and i do believe we are folks who refuse to accept the notion that islam is a major religion and this whole bigotry toward islam, painting a brush as if they're all the same and they all somehow are terrorists, that they're not americans and, as kathleen parker said, it's a question of them versus us. that's a part of this, absolutely. >> but it's not -- i mean, you can't say that everybody who is opposed to the mosque and the location near ground zero does that? >> no, no. i am making the point -- atheists or agnostic oppose it as well. i am making the point that this is one of those tough times where we have to ask ourselves, how much do we really love and
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cherish our own u.s. constitution? we cannot sit here and call ourselves a nation that supports our troops fighting for freedom across the country when we want to ignore this very freedom here. this is a tough choice when you are an american. >> cliff, a former staffer at the republican national committee. imam rauf says this is a victim of politics. a lot of republicans have been opposed to this. are they using this? >> no. i think it's very unfair to say and very unfair to demonize 70% of americans who have serious questions about this. i've been called a hater, islamaphobe and bigot because i raised questions. look, there are politicians on all sides of this. i don't agree with mayor bloomberg but i don't think he's using it for politics. governor paterson tried to find a compromise. i don't think that's political. but to say anybody who disagrees with them or disagrees with me or who thinks this is an unwise choice, they're bigots, islamaphobes and, yes, have ulterior motives. nobody, roland, is questioning the right or most of the 70% if
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you look at the polls, they aren't dwheg right to put a mosque or a church anywhere. they are questioning whether this is a good idea to put this $100 million structure, and it was originally called an islamic facility. tonight the imam called it an interfaith center, i believe. if it's an interfaith center, let's do this. let's ask him to do this. it's 15 floors. let's put a church on a high floor. after all, christians were the ones who founded this great nation, then a synagogue, jews were, as was noted before by the governor, among the first to find religious freedom here and then a mosque as well on a lower floor. if we did that, i think you could say it really is an interfaith center and i think minds would change. also if you moved it to another location because this is a sensitive location, an open wound, minds would change as well. i really resent the demonization of those who oppose this. >> but you just heard cliff do exactly what i'm talking about. who are you to tell another religion how they should build something? as a member of salem baptist
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church in chicago and the church without walls in houston, i don't want some other faith telling my pastor or the members what we should build. >> roland. >> no, no, no. wait, cliff. >> it's unfair, roland. >> then you further insulted another religion by saying since we founded the country, put us on the top floor and as muslims, you can be on the lower floor. who are you to tell them what to do with their center? >> it's interesting. you think that it's the first amendment is important but for me to make a suggestion, you object to my first amendment right. >> no, no, i object -- >> i'm making a suggestion. alm i'm saying is if the imam wants to make the statement that we really mean this as an interfaith center, not a strictly muslim facility that may allow some others in, then there are some ways to do that to make it convincing. >> if i could change the subject briefly, the role of media on this, anderson, because that's important. media can play a constructive role. if you would have the imam back with the families and have a real conversation, i think tonight was constructive.
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if we give a lot of attention to this koran burning on saturday and make a great big deal out of it, this fringe element guy with 50 people, that's a mistake. we should not do that. >> david gergen, cliff may, roland martin, as well. take a quick break. and fold with one hand. you could switch for up to 600 highway miles on a single tank of gas. or the hundred-thousand mile powertrain warranty. over a thousand people a day are switching to chevy. they're not just trading in, they're trading up. get 1.9% apr financing for 60 months on a 2011 traverse or choose $1,500 cash back. where banks competed to save me a boatload of money on my mortgage, that would be awesome. sure, like that'll happen. don't just think about it -- spend 10 minutes at lendingtree and save up to $258 a month.
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end of the year for wealthy americans, while extending them for the middle class. incredible scene in dallas tonight. at least four tornadoes touched down in and around the city, all remnants of tropical depression hermine. damage was thankfully minimal and no major injuries were reported, but the tornadoes forced dallas' airport to shut down for a while. and in las vegas, a lion at the mgm grand attacked a trainer in front of a crowd. look at these pictures. according to a statement by mgm, the trainer was taken to a hospital, treated and has been released. >> yikes. >> absolutely scary stuff. anderson, i'm not just here to bring you headlines. here is a little bit of life wisdom for you, because that's what i'm here for. if you find yourself in a cage with a lion, chest out time. the lion sensed some kind of fear. >> chest out? >> man up. that kind of thing. >> okay. see you tomorrow. >> i appreciate that you just told me to man up. >> i'm here to keep you on track. >> thank you, isha.
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a lot more ahead at the top of the hour. the imam on the so-called ground zero mosque. we'll hear in his own words ahead. hey, smart, we could stay here fothe conference. i'm a member of this hotel's loyalty program. well, how far away is it? okay, we take a train 40 miles to a dude ranch where we pick up a couple of horses that we ride to a nearby river. then we canoe upstream to a helicopter that takes us to the conference. or we could book with and stay closer. see, with welcomerewards, no matter where you accumulate 10 nights, you get a free one. huh. smarter. [ male announcer ] accumulate 10 nights and get a night free. welcomerewards from smart. so smart. affect wheat output in the u.s., the shipping industry in norway, and the rubber industry, in south america? at t. rowe price, we understand the connections of a complex global economy.
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